Carl Williams has created a great sporting niche for himself

Carl WilliamsIn our long history of reporting on a wide range of sportsmen and women across Pembrokeshire over the past 35 years we find it hard to remember many who have been involved in a whole range of sports quite as much as Carl Williams, who owns the Synergy Health and Wellness Centre in Pembroke Dock.
Carl converted a disused church in The Dock and after 18 months of hard graft in terms of renovation his centre has been in existence for eight years and whilst everyone is welcome to use the superb facilities one of his clearly-stated aims is to encourage participation from what he calls the ‘Decommission market’ – that is the large numbers in our community who want to improve their fitness and well-being through exercise but are not sure how to go about it.
“It’s great to have our regulars who are already committed to quality exercise but we want to have an inclusive gym which welcomes all,” Carl told us.

A much-travelled man

But aside from his total immersion in what happens at Synergy, Carl was previously actively involved as a very talented young rugby player, an all-round athlete who competed for Wales and in the UK championships whilst in school; spent a lot of time in North America promoting the benefits of sport, including two years in Chicago and a stint in Canada.
He has competed twice in ‘Iron Man Wales’ – and is the Welsh organiser of a charity called ‘Get Fit 4 Mental Health’, which was set up by his old friend Manuel Benages, who lives in Halifax, and one of Carl’s ambitions is to see a mental health hub set up in our area..

Family Matters . . .

More of all those later, though, as we set out on Carl’s story with his introduction to sport through his family heritage, which began via his grandfather Terry Loxton, who came to The Dock via Cardiff and the Army, and playing for The Quins alongside Rod Jones, who became a great friend and rival after arriving her from Swansea and the RAF, so they were always trying to outdo each other.
Grandad used to regale young Carl with his sporting stories and his uncle Darren was a karate star and instructor after remaining undefeated from an early age through to 12 years old and stepped down from being Welsh and British Champions because there was nothing set up for him then – so he also turned to local rugby.
Carl’s father Hughie was the third member of this family trio and also played rugby and football in the area until all his work as a well-known local builder halted all that.
“My mother Tracey was a real influence to because she was ‘The Rock’ behind all the family did and now I have a 19-month son Koah (named after a Hawaiian warrior god) whom I hopes will maintain the family sporting tradition.
“But as long as he is happy in life I’ll be delighted anyway,” admitted Carl.

Early start in rugby – and loads of tries as Stuart and John created an influence

First time British Karate champ - at 8On the rugby front, Carl set out with the junior section at Pembroke Dock Harlequins that was so well organised by the late Stuart Lewis, whilst another adult who influenced him in school rugby was John Scrivenor, who as well as being his games teacher taught him to always aim high in anything he did.
“With the Quins I scored heaps of tries and at one time my coaches restricted me to scoring four tries in any match because I knew how to use my strength much more than others my age.
“I was county schools’ captain from the first year on and I was very proud to earn my county cap, which I still treasure today after all those years.”

Record GCSE PE result

Another record from that time came when he and Hughie John became the first GCSE students in the UK taking PE who achieved maximum points in the practical part of the course, with 15 out of 15 in each of their four chosen elements to gain the full 60 marks.
“I took scuba diving, swimming, gymnastics and rugby as my areas,” and loved being involved in all of them.”

Athletics’ success with Wales

Carl was also a very keen athlete and joined other locals in Jamie Callan and Carl Scott in doing so well at County and regional levels that he was selected to compete in the Welsh and UK Championships, which took place in Cardiff, initially in the javelin and high jump.

Now that might seem an unusual mix but it became even wider in range after Jamie suffered a late injury in the 60 metres sprint and Cal was drafted in late, coming in a very creditable fourth.
"I really enjoyed competing and I won lots of events at County sports level over the years and I still have my medals for them in Haverfordwest and for the regional events in Carmarthen. Sadly, there were no vests presented for Welsh Schools indoor events in those days because it would have been nice to have a memento of those successful days.

With dad Hugh and grandad Terry - awarded his full Pembrokeshire cap for captaining every school age group in rugby

Academic experience at Sir gar and the University of Gloucestershire

From school Carl was awarded a scholarship to attend Coleg Sir Gar, which included accommodation in a hall of residence and all tuition fees, playing rugby there in the first team alongside Nathan ‘Gully’ Williams (Milford Haven) and David ‘Bongo’ Maddox (Haverfordwest).
“At the same time I played for Llanelli Youth as a flanker but they converted me to hooker and I was literally thrown in at the deep end, but enjoyed the physicality of playing with and against some big guys in the front row.
“From there I went on to take an honours’ degree at the University of Gloucestershire, which had centres in Gloucester and Cheltenham, and was awarded a 2.1 (Hons) degree in Sport and Exercise Science with Sports Psychology.

 Carl with his mum after completing Snowdon walk in memory of his late dad TerryRugby experiences in England

“On the rugby front at that time I was the only ‘fresher’ in the first XV and then played in the English League Division Two with Old Patesians, who are based in Cheltenham.
"When I was playing rugby at Gloucester University I was selected for trials with the English Universities and after a series of trials I was included in the squad but I sustained a nasty hamstring injury shortly afterwards which not only lost me my place but effectively ended any serious rugby ambitions I had.

Starting up ‘Synergy’ – and great local support

"When I returned to Pembroke Dock I rejoined The Quins and enjoyed a couple of seasons with a great crowd of lads but by then my dream of owning my own fitness centre were well underway and so I finished - although I could have no regrets because I love doing what I do now!"
After all the hard graft of acquiring just the premises he needed, getting stuck in to all the renovations and everything else that was needed, it was great anticipation that he finally opened 'The Synergy Health and Wellness Centre'.
"I must say that I've had terrific support from my local community, “Carl told us, "and when the pandemic struck we had over 250 annual members and over 50 monthly members, which was an amazing number.
"Of course it has been hampered by Covid but I'm sure the crowds will come back - and in the meanwhile I've provided over 100 free workouts on Face Book since I had to close the centre."

A class at Synergy shows the true diversity that Carl seeks

Ambitions for another centre

Carl has ambitions to open up a second centre, somewhere in Pembrokeshire, developing it on similar lines but perhaps with a more functional approach that includes things like Crossfit, Barbell work, Bums & tums, Hit groups - and much more group session work that will include things like spinning and lots of other session, instead of a focus on individual participation. He has also welcomed Pennar Robins AFC, Monkton Swifts and Pembroke Quins RFC for preseason training.

Committed to charity work

Carl is also passionately involved in charity work that started out almost by chance after meeting Manuel Benages during a holiday in Ibiza and discovered they shared a similar passion for helping mental health issues.
"Manuel lives in Halifax and has appeared on celebrity-type television programmes and almost three years ago we decided to work together to develop 'Get Fit 4 Mental Wellness' and I have agreed to lead it in Wales after we were granted charity status almost two years ago.
"We are very eager to raise funds through challenging events and in the near future we are going to have a sponsored walk along our superb coastal walk and a more difficult test in a series of mountain climbing that will take in Snowdon, Cader Idris, and Penyfan.
"In Scotland we are organising a walk later in the year from Loch Ness and across the Scottish hinterland to the Atlantic Ocean so that we can put our charity even further on the map."

Carl with team-mate Lee Scourfield in Iron Man WalesCarl tests himself with Iron Man Wales . . .

Carl has always practised what he preaches and so in 2013 he decided to literally take the plunge and enlist for the Iron Man Wales event that centres on Tenby.
"I was already a useful swimmer after taking it very seriously when  I took it for my GCSE, and throughout my time in University.
 I managed to complete the 2.4-mile swim in 1 hour 3 minutes, took 7 hours 15 minutes for the 112-mile cycle and completed the marathon on tired legs in 4 hours 15 minutes - and with times added on for the transition stages I ended up with a time of 13 hours 40 minutes.

. . . And gives it a second go!

"It wasn't bad for a first effort but I resolved to do better and in 2014 I entered again - and this time improved to a total of 12 hours 4 minutes.
“I know it's a cliché but the crowds were brilliant and I had decided to go for my hat-trick in 2020, now that my centre was well underway - but the pandemic put paid to that, although I will take part again sometime in the future when things settle back business-wise.”

Carl and the boys at his free community sports group at Monkton School

And finally . . .

Ask Carl about his future aspirations and he is very focussed.
“I am very eager to maintain the huge progress we have made at our current headquarters and am looking forward to the challenge of developing another facility in the county.
“I recognise the need and want to help others gain the pleasure I have had out of getting and keeping fit – and will do all I can to see that suitable facilities are available to all who need them!”
And do you know what? We reckon he will do just that, too!

Carl (far right) with his colleagues in America, working in health and wellness industry